Bridging the Gap: How AFCPE Professionals Can Help Close the Racial Wealth Divide

09/19/2017 08:35 am ET Updated Sep 20, 2017

Coauthored with Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director, Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education

Research shows that the average wealth of White families has grown 84% over the past 30 years, which is 1.2 times the rate of growth for Latino households, and three times the rate for Black households. It is projected that by the year 2043 when people of color will become the majority of the population, the wealth divide will have doubled from $500,000 in 2013 to over $1 million (Prosperity Now (formerly known as CFED, Institute for Policy Studies, 2016).

By this measure, it will take 228 years for Black families to attain the wealth of white families, just 17 years shorter than the span of slavery. Likewise, it will take Latino families 84 years to reach the same amount of wealth that White families have today.

There is an important distinction between income and wealth inequality. While income levels address short term needs, wealth accumulation provides mobility and security for the future. In his new book, Toxic Inequality, Tom Shapiro tells the compelling story of over two hundred families across different races and income levels over a twelve year period to outline the impact of historic systems and growing inequality for people of color in the United States.

How Did We Get Here?

It is important to understand the historical factors that have led to these disparities. The Racial Wealth Audit, a tool measuring how policies have shaped the racial wealth divide, focuses on three main areas that drive the racial wealth divide: homeownership, education, and income. For example, purchasing property and homeownership are essential components of the American Dream, providing assets to pass down to future generations. In 2011, 73% of white households owned their homes compared to only 47% of Latinos and 45% of Blacks. Additionally, white households earned $1.34 compared to every $1 in wealth of Black households. Disparities also exist within our education system, where communities are still segregated and communities of color are often left with fewer resources and lower quality schools.

What Can We Do About it?

Creating access to economic security and empowerment is essential to closing the racial wealth divide and creating a more equitable society. Furthermore, it is foundational to the work of AFCPE and our professionals. As an organization, we certify and train professionals who provide financial counseling, coaching and education in a variety of capacities across diverse communities. We believe that no matter your income level or background you deserve access to the highest quality of financial advice and support; access to professionals who have the knowledge and experience to support you through a financial crisis, develop effective money management skills and provide you with a foundation to move you towards long term financial well-being.

People across this country are struggling to make ends meet, get out from under crushing debt, save for education, retirement and their future dreams. On top of that are systemic issues that affect the way people navigate an already complex financial system. Families without wealth are more economically vulnerable to small setbacks that can derail even the best efforts to get ahead financially. Intergenerational wealth of white families provides an invisible but important financial safety net. Often, it translates into higher education support, or a downpayment for a home that helps future generations, but further exacerbates the wealth divide.

That is why, as we continue to set the standards for the field of personal finance, it is crucial that our professionals understand how these systemic issues of inequality impact the behavior, decisions, beliefs, and dreams of the people we serve. And, we work together to build a more integrated and comprehensive continuum of care across the financial industry, with a steadfast commitment to the highest standards of professionalism and to serving the best interest of our clients.

Please join us in San Diego, November 15-17 for the AFCPE Annual Research and Training Symposium focused on how our professionals can help to bridge the gap of important issues like the racial and gender wealth divide, savings gap, research to practice, and financial behavior change.

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